IBM Balancing Intel and AMD to Create Better Servers - Page 2

Rob Enderle

AMD vs. Intel


In my view, done right, the two solutions (at least in the server space) shouldn't compete as much as they generally do. If the specification is set properly, the more generic desired result should naturally favor Intel, and the more unique should naturally favor AMD (and the related vendor).


IBM's Approach


If you look at the IBM iDataPlex dx360 M2 server, you see it designing around Intel while taking advantage of the core Intel benefits. It is designed as a performance powerhouse and it is cased in a way that allows for maximum densities while not degrading the performance you are paying for. Differentiation is outside of the Intel specification and deals with storage, case size and memory configurations. It's generic at the Intel core but configurable outside of that core to meet unique needs and wrapped with IMM, ToolsCenter, and Director 6.1 tools.


Now if you look at the 2P IBM BladeCenter LS42, you see how it designed with AMD. Similar wrappings but the core of the offering is unique to IBM. This product, which ships with two processors, can be upgraded to four processors with no penalty. This is unheard of in this space, as you generally have to pay a large premium to take a two-processor server to four processors. In most competitive offerings, you'd likely be better off just swapping out the 2P server for a 4P. In this instance, you can buy what you need today and expand as you need to without replacing the server or incurring any financial hardware penalty. To do this, AMD and IBM had to work closely together and here the core technology was modified to differentiate the offering and make it unique to IBM.


With the Intel-based product, it focuses largely on performance per watt, which is where the core benefit of the new Nehalem-based Intel offering is. With the AMD part, it focuses on providing the best value for a growing company. The Intel-based server would be too expensive for the buyer who didn't yet need the performance it provided and the AMD-based server's flexibility would be worthless to someone who needed maximum performance on day one.


Wrapping Up: IBM's Clearly Serious About X86


In looking at whether a vendor is serious about a segment, you not only want to see how they spend financial capital but how they spend intellectual capital. IBM is clearly thinking through how to best use both Intel and AMD in these examples more than most other vendors, and the result is not only better differentiated offerings but a greater assurance that IBM places a high priority on this market and is solidly committed to it. In the end, however, it is the example it sets in terms of thinking through how to best use these two chip suppliers that I'd like you to remember. All suppliers have advantages and disadvantages; knowing when and where to make use of them generally results in better decisions and, in this case, better products.

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